KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in September, but didn't indicate when it might issue its ruling.
Few cases had addressed the level of legal duty, or obligation, a mascot owes to fans, so Coomer's case is being closely watched by teams throughout the country, said Tormohlen.
"If a jury finds that the activity at issue is an inherent and unavoidable risk, the Royals owe no duty to their spectators," Tormohlen said. "No case has extended the no-duty rule to the activities of a mascot."
The Royals, whose spokesman declined to comment on the case while it is pending, have argued that the hot dog toss has been a popular fan attraction at Kauffman Stadium since 2000 and is as much part of the game experience as strikeouts and home runs.
From mascot races and T-shirt cannons to free Wi-Fi and stadium sushi stands, teams have been doing everything they can to convince fans that the live experience is worth the high ticket and concession prices and is better than watching games on television.
"You have this competition with teams engaged in pushing the envelope trying to make the experience at the event better than what you can experience at home," said Jordan Kobritz, a professor in the Sports Management Department at SUNY Cortland. "You also have the fan mentality in which risk today is more tolerable than it's been in our history."
A ruling in Coomer's favor, or one that at least assigns partial blame to the mascot, could force teams to rethink their promotions or take additional measures to keep spectators safe, Kobritz said.
Bob Jarvis, a sports law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said a 1997 California case set an important precedent when a state appeals court ruled that mascots were not an essential part of a baseball game.